Brexit day: What next for charities?

Today we leave the European Union. Following the 2019 general election and Boris Johnson’s significant majority, the House of Commons passed the withdrawal agreement bill on 20 December. As a result, the UK will exit the EU with the prime minister’s deal at 23.00.

In the short term, the UK will move into an ‘implementation period‘ when the government will engage in trade talks with the EU. This transition, during which the UK ceases to be a member of the EU, ends on 31 December 2020. Until then, the rules and rights of EU membership apply to citizens and organisations in the UK.

The long-term picture is far less clear. Only the short political declaration and the EU’s preparatory discussion briefing give any indication as to what each side’s priorities will be. Aside from trade, many other aspects of the UK-EU relationship will need to be decided, such as data sharing, aviation standards and regulation of medicines. All of these could have far-reaching consequences for civil society in the UK.

NCVO has published two sets of guidance on what Brexit means for charities and what can be done to prepare for all scenarios. While we know that the UK will leave the EU with a deal at the end of January, it’s important that charities are still thinking about all eventualities.

A no-deal Brexit is still possible in 2020

There is a clause in the withdrawal agreement bill that seeks to prevent an extension of the transition period beyond 31 December 2020. It states that any extension must be agreed by 1 July – five months after the UK leaves the EU. If no extension is agreed, the government has just 11 months to negotiate a complex free trade deal with the EU27. The EU, however, has stated plainly that such a deadline will be ‘impossible’ to meet. It is therefore crucial to note that while a no-deal exit has been ruled out at the end of January, it’s still possible that on 1 January 2021, the UK effectively experiences a no-deal or WTO Brexit.

The stakes on such an outcome have been raised in recent days as the EU has delayed official trade talks until at least the start of March. The UK’s future relationship with the EU and the outcome of trade talks will continue to have a significant impact on policy making in the year ahead, and we are likely to see the effects of Brexit – both direct and indirect –  unfold throughout the year ahead in areas such as public funding and immigration.

In light of this, NCVO’s no-deal Brexit guidance is still relevant and an important tool for all organisations looking to the future. Regardless of which Brexit scenario occurs, the steps in our guidance are highly recommended for all organisations. They will help to improve awareness of the issues, and streamline operational matters for any trustees or decision makers.

This short summary contains the key points from our Brexit guidance and provides a good starting point for board meetings. NCVO will continue to provide guidance for charities as the political situation unfolds over the coming months.

 

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Ben Westerman Ben Westerman is a senior external relations officer at NCVO, leading on Brexit work.

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